The Puri Jagannath Temple is one of the most famous and revered temples in Hindu culture. It is located at Puri in Odisha. It is part of the sacred Char Dham Yatra that a Hindu must make during his or her lifetime. It is one of the most sacred Vaishnavite Pilgrimage sites. The temple is dedicated to Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra.
The Puri Jagannath Temple is built on a raised platform in the center of the city. There are four gates of the temple facing the four directions. The gates are suitably named as The North gate (Elephant Gate), South gate (Horse Gate), West gate (Tiger Gate) and the East gate (Lion gate). The public is allowed to enter from the Lion or the East gate. At the entrance, a 10 feet high Aruna Stambha greets everyone. A flight of 22 steps takes us to the main sanctum of Lord Jagannath.
The Puri Jagannath Temple can be divided into four areas – The Vimana (Sanctum), The Jagamohan (the Porch), Natamandir (Audience hall) and the Bhogamandap. The Vimana was once known as the tallest structure in ancient India. On the walls, several murals depict the life of Lord Krishna.
The first thing that comes to our mind when we talk about the Puri Jagannath Temple is the world famous Jagannath Rath Yatra. The festival has propelled the temple into worldwide fame.
Puri Jagannath Temple History
As per the copper plates discovered belonging to the Ganga Dynasty, the ruler of Kalinga Anantavarman Chodaganga Dev initiated the construction of the Puri Jagannath Temple. In 1174E, the King Ananga Bhima Dev built the puri jagannath temple in its present form.
Worshiping at the Puri Jagannath temple was discontinued in 1558 when Odisha was attacked by the Afghan General Kalapahad. Deities were re-installed and rituals began again after the establishment of the Khurda kingdom under Ramachandra Deb.
According to historical evidence, the puri jagannath temple was looted 18 times. It is believed that Lord Jagannath was originally worshipped as Nila Madhava by the tribals residing in a dense forest. A king named Indradyumna of the Malwa plateau had a dream that Lord Vishnu could be viewed in his true form in Utkala (ancient name of Odisha).
He appointed a person named Vidyapati to search for this form. Vidyapati came upon the tribal community and found out about the worshiping of the Nila Madhava. Vidyapati married the daughter of the chief of the tribal and was shown the way to the place housing the Nila Madhava.
Vidyapati informed the king about the place of worship but when the King went there by himself, the Nila Madhava had disappeared. The King was deeply dejected. Lord Vishnu, taking pity, issued a divine message to him that he should go to the shores of Puri and create the image of Lord Jagannath from a log of wood that will be floating on the waves.
Lord Vishnu appeared as a carpenter and asked to leave him undisturbed for 21 days in a room so that he could prepare the image. However, on the insistence of the Queen, the room was opened early and only the unfinished images of the three gods and the Sudarsana Chakra were present.
According to historians, the puri jagannath temple was initially dedicated to only Lord Jagannath and Balabhadra. The third idol of Subhadra was placed later when Adi Shankaracharya visited Puri.
Significance of Puri Jagannath temple
Unlike idols located in other parts of the country, which are usually made of stone or metal, the idol of Lord Jagannath is made of Wood.
The puri jagannath temple’s kitchen is the biggest kitchen in the World. It can cook for lakhs of people at a time. The tradition says that the cooking of the food is supervised by Goddess Mahalakshmi herself. If she is displeased, a shadow of a dog appears near the kitchen. The food is then buried and a new batch is prepared.
The food is purely vegetarian without using onions and garlic. It is made in earthen pots with wood as fuel. It is believed that by consuming the Mahaprasad at the Temple Kitchen, one can redeem himself in front of Lord Jagannath. The Mahaprasad consists of Rice, Dal, Vegetable Curry and a sweet dish. Dry Mahaprasad is also available for pilgrims who want to carry it to home with them.
A ritual unique to the Puri Jagannath temple is the Nabakalebara process. The idols of the deities have to be replaced after 12 yrs since they are made of wood which decays as time passes by. The elaborate procedure in which the deities are all replaced is collectively called as Nabakalebara. In short, the selected Neem tree is fell, cut to size and an exact replica of the original idols are made out of it. The old idols are buried under a place called Koili Vaikuntha.
Lord Jagannath is worshiped as “Daru Brahma”, Daru meaning Wood and Brahma meaning the soul. It is believed that inside the wooden idol of Lord Jagannath, an unknown substance is present known as Brahma. There are several theories on what the substance could be, but according to the poems dating back 500 years ago, it is a piece of bone from Lord Krishna’s body when he left Earth.
In ancient times, the puri jagannath temple was iconic in the way that it gave equal importance to Vaisnavism (devotees of Vishnu), Saktism (devotees of Bhadra / Kali) and Saivism (devotees of Shiva). Lord Jagannath represents Lord Vishnu, Balabhadra is Lord Shiva and Subhadra represents Durga.
On the top floor of the Shikhar of the Jagannath shrine, a Neel Chakra is placed. The disc is an eight-spiked chakra. This is the only physical object considered sacred in the worshiping of Lord Jagannath. It symbolises protection by Lord Jagannath.
Puri Jagannath Temple Timings
- Puri Jagannath Temple opens at 5 am and closes at 12 am. The afternoon break is from 1 pm to 4 pm.
- Mangala Aarti takes place between 5 AM to 6 AM.
- Non-Hindus or Hindus but not Indians are not allowed inside the temple premises.
- Smoking and drinking are prohibited inside the puri jagannath temple complex.
Puri Jagannath Temple Dress Code
It is advised to wear a conservative form of dress in accordance with the local culture of the place.
Puri Jagannath Temple Sevas and Poojas
- Mailama is performed after the Mangal Aarti in the morning. In this ritual, the clothes worn by the God are taken off along with the jewels to prepare them for their ritualistic bath.
- Abakash or the Purificatory rituals like bathing of the idol takes place between 6:00 AM to 6:30 AM.
- Sahanamela – Pilgrims are allowed to enter the inner sanctum to have a darshan. This takes place between 7:00 AM to 8:00 AM.
- Surya Puja and Dwarapal Puja are performed at 8:00 AM.
- Gopala Ballava Pooja – Breakfast is offered to the deities. Sweet popcorn (Khai), Coconut sweets, Ripe banana, Curd, and chipped coconuts are offered as Bhog. Puja is performed in a brief manner with pancha upachar only.
- Sakala Dhupa – Three pundits sit in front of the three deities and worships each one of them. Bhog is offered. The cost of the Poojas is borne by the Puri Jagannath Temple Administration.
- Sandhya Dhupa – Aarti is performed between 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM.
- Pahuda at 12 midnight. The deities are taken to Ratnasimhasana where they retire to bed.
Festivals celebrated at Puri Jagannath Temple
- Chandan Yatra – On Akshaya Tritiya, in the month of Vaisakha, the representative images of the God are taken to a famous tank called Narendra Pokhari with much pomp and fare. The day commemorated the beginning of the construction of the Chariots used for the Rath Yatra.
- Snana Yatra – This is the first time in a year when the deities are taken out of the sanctum and are placed on the Snana Vedi. Jagannath and Balabhadra are dressed like Lord Ganesha with an elephant head on top. The idols are bathed with 108 buckets of water. The deities are eventually removed from the sanctum and are worshiped secretly till the second day of the Asadha (June-July) month.
- Rath Yatra – The Rath Yatra is also known as The Gundicha Yatra. Gundicha was the queen of King Indradyumna. She initiated the first ever Rath Yatra conducted. The Rath Yatra has been taking place since time immemorial. The earliest references to the Yatra have been made in the Brahma Purana and the Skanda Purana. The Rath Yatra takes place in June-July every year. The three deities are taken to the Gundicha temple located 3 km away on three individual huge and magnificent Rathas. After 9 days, the deities are brought back to the temple in the same way. The return journey is called Bahuda Yatra. The three chariots are named as Nandighosa for Jagannath, Taladhvaja for Balabhadra and Devadalana for Subhadra. The order in which the chariots are pulled from the Puri Jagannath Temple gate towards the Gundicha temple is Balabhadra, Subhadra and then Jagannatha.
- Makara Sankranthi – This festival occurs in the Hindu month of Pausa. The day signifies the rich harvest of the agricultural produce. Prayers are given and varieties of food are kept in front of the deities for them to bless it.
Some of the other important celebrations are Jhulana yatra, Ram Navami, Radha Ashtami, Krishna Lila, Ganesh Chaturthi, Dasara and Deepavali.
How to reach Puri Jagannath Temple
- By Air – The nearest airport is Bhubaneshwar which is 53 km away from puri jagannath temple. Regular flights are available from all major cities in India.
- By Train – Puri is well connected by rail. Direct trains are operated from major cities like Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai.
- By Road – The State buses are available in plenty from stations like Bhubaneshvwar, Vizag, Konark and Chilka.
Puri Jagannath Temple Accommodation
The Puri Jagannath Temple Administration maintains two guest houses by the names of Shri Gundicha Bhakta Nivas and The Nilachal Bhakta and Yatri Nivas. Rooms can be booked online by visiting the site.
Private 3-star and 5-star hotels are available in plenty for the pilgrims throughout the city of Puri.
Where to eat
The Mahaprasad offered by the puri jagannath temple is a meal in itself and a must have. Apart from that, a large number of Vegetarian restaurants are available outside the temple complex. The cuisine ranges from local to Punjabi and Chinese.
- Sakshi Gopal Temple – The temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna and Radha. Amla Navami is the main festival celebrated here. The temple is located 17 km away from the Puri Highway.
- Vimala Temple – It is located inside the temple complex. Goddess Vimala is considered to be the consort of Jagannath and a guardian of the temple complex. Devotees pay respect to Vimala before worshipping Jagannath in the main temple. Food offered to Jagannath does not get sanctified as Mahaprasad until it is also offered to Vimala.
- Gundicha Temple –It is located 3 km away from the Jagannath Temple. It is the destination of the chariots during the Rath Yatra. The three deities are kept here for 7 days during the Rath Yatra.